It's Week #28: Low Key

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Simply put, low-key photography is an image that uses mostly dark tones to create a dramatic looking image. Similar to high-key (Week 20), which is bright image that has more white than black, a low-key image will typically use one or two focused light sources, to selectively light a subject on an otherwise dark background.

A subject may be ensconced in shadow, with only selected details illuminated. This style often creates very dramatic shots, so make sure your subject matches the mood. Here’s an excellent primer on low-key photography to get you started.

Remember: Low-Key doesn’t necessarily mean “under-exposed”, but rather it is an image with predominantly darker tones. Embrace the bright spots in your low-key shot, and make sure they are shining with intention, according to your tastes.



 Tips and Tuts for this week:

  • Embrace the darkness. Low-key images are sometimes intentionally under-exposed, in order to make better use of the dark tones. I personally avoid the “gray area” when your subject becomes under-exposed as well, so take care to keep your subjects properly exposed, but that ultimately is up to taste.
  • Low-key photos can be in color! While black and white give a more dramatic sense of what is being highlighted, the beauty of color can still be a part of your photo. Check out some examples here.
  • Shoot with emotion. Low-key images tend to be more dramatic, introspective, or bold. What are you trying to portray? Shoot accordingly.
  • Try your hand at product shots. This is a very popular method of displaying products today, especially ones that lean towards the technical. And it’s not that difficult.
  • Remember, while low-key is often under-exposed, it does not exclusively mean that it must be, but rather that it should be a darker image overall. Utilizing a black background will almost always yield a low-key result.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our some great examples of low-key photography here, here, and here too!  And as always, check out The Googles! Oh you sweet Googles.


Extra Credit: Bodyscape

For some extra credit joojoo, try capturing some body parts in low-key! The human form is one of the earliest subjects that artists have explored, and a low-key method is a beautiful way craft an abstract image. Check out last year’s “Body” challenge for some inspiration.

Check out the Googles for some more inspiration. 

Remember, it is not necessary to keep this Extra Credit challenge in mind while shooting. It’s extra credit!

*Please note!! You can only submit ONE photo per week, for the week’s challenge. This photo can include the “Extra Credit” part of the challenge, or the “regular” challenge, but you can never submit more than one photo!

Past Challenges - 2015